Netflix series ‘The End of the F***ing World’ packs a punch

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(courtesy of “End of the f***king world” facebook page)

You might’ve heard the buzz around the Netflix series “The End of the F***ing World,” whether it be from the internet or your friends. It’s generated much attention just because of how different it is, especially with such an eye-catching title. At first, the show reads like any typical black comedy, its sardonic dialogue and bizarreness of its characters—even the supporting ones—showing it off as edgy, and almost irritating at times (at least in the first few episodes).

However, the once the storyline borders “True Romance”-esque, the narrative quickens as the show becomes a viable candidate for binge-watching. Based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel series, “The End of the F***ing World” focuses on two teenage outcasts—supposed psychopath James (Alex Lawther) and angry, belligerent Alyssa (Jessica Barden). The two find company in each other not for reasons you’d think in a teenage coming-of-age film, but rather, James plans to murder Alyssa, while Alyssa makes James a bit of a project when she pursues him.

The eccentric, cutting nature of many Quentin Tarantino films come to mind when you get a feel for the atmosphere in the show—the pair of misfits live in a rather disturbing and deadpan world, not to mention their own personalities are unorthodox from the typical teenage love story.

Dealing with particularly unstable home lives—James with a widowed, polar-opposite father and Alyssa with a neglectful mother and stepdad—the two embark on an impromptu road trip after James punches his father and subsequently steals his car. It all happens quite fast, a theme that recurs throughout the show. What’s most appealing is not only how engaging it is, but how much the narrative’s conciseness makes it so easy to binge.

Despite being set in England, the series pays homage to American films like “True Romance” and “Natural Born Killers,” to the point where James and Alyssa even change their appearances to match their predecessors Alabama and Clarence, with Alyssa in a blonde bob and James in a Hawaiian shirt. The series’ atmosphere has a vintage feel to it despite most likely taking place in a modern time period. The heist that ensues with the pair, who try their very best to cover the tracks in fits of entertaining violence and ploys, carries something addictive that makes you want to keep watching, not to mention the 22-minute runtime of each episode.

Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden excel at creating a certain depth in their characters despite the deadpan and morbid humor between them. James and Alyssa’s emotional connection develops in the realization of the vulnerabilities within themselves and each other. The actors’ performances maintain the sarcasm of black comedy while also showing both characters to be multifaceted. The more these misfits spend time with one another and fall into hilariously ludicrous situations, the more we see James unravel away from his serial killer exterior, as well as Alyssa detaching slightly to her constantly furious personality.

Aside from the many black comedy films and television shows that could easily be compared to “The End of the F***ing World”, the series truly is unique for how much it packs for such a short runtime. Its ability to consolidate an alluring plot into eight short episodes is truly valuable in a time where attention span rules everything, and the baggage of starting a dense TV series is truly daunting. With an aesthetic so definite and a plot that borderlines surrealism at times, the characters and the narrative that they pave is unforgettable. It leaves you craving more, despite the viable suggestion that alluding to the title, the ending and aftermath of the season won’t be particularly happy.


Ariya Sonethavy can be reached at [email protected]